The Call of the Holy Spirit

http://studio212photo.com//wp-content/themes/zakra/image.php Preached on May 24, 2015

Mockingbird Carol

Manturovo (1) Today is Pentecost – the Feast of the Holy Spirit

Jugsālai Imagine that you could actually see God’s Spirit. When Nicodemus asked Jesus about the Spirit, Jesus told him, The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes… (John 3:8) Like the wind, like the air around us, like the breath within us, the Spirit is always around us and within us; always pulling us and nudging us; always aching and rejoicing with us. We may never see the Spirit, but we can always be aware of it.

(2) Today’s Scriptures tell us the Spirit comes in many ways

ACTS 2 – The disciples were waiting for the Holy Spirit to come in power: When the day of Pentecost had come, the disciples were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability… What was the gift of Pentecost? Speaking in tongues, or connecting to God and to other people?

PSALM 104Yet the Spirit has always been in the world: O Lord, how manifold are your works! in wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. You hide your face, and they are terrified; you take away their breath, and they die and return to their dust. You send forth your Spirit, and they are created; and so you renew the face of the earth… Notice that the Spirit gives the breath of life to the whole world, not just human beings.

JOHN 15-16Jesus teaches his disciples what the Spirit will do:  When the Advocate comes….The Spirit of truth….will testify…. guide you into all the truth… speak whatever he hears… tell you the things that are to come…. teach you… remind you of what I have shown you… give you peace …

St. Paul calls the Spirit ‘the Spirit of Jesus’ (Acts 16) – the Spirit has the compassion, grace and love his disciples saw in Jesus of Nazareth.

Richard Rohr calls the Spirit the ‘stable witness’:  *

Unless you find and learn to abide in the place of the ‘Stable Witness,’ (which is the Holy Spirit who has been given to each of us), you will remain trapped in your ego… From the place of the Stable Witness, however, you can observe both yourself and the world around you with objective, calm, loving eyes. Quite simply, you are not so identified with that small self because you are resting in the Big Self, in the God Self, in the One who knows all, loves all, and holds all things in their seeming imperfection. Like the gifts of faith, hope, and love, holding the opposites is the unique work of the Spirit. It is not something you can merely attain by practice, although that is necessary too. All you can do is abide in God, and then God holds the tensions in you and through you and with you—and largely in spite of you! Such a way of living is a participation in the very life of God, who holds all things in unity and compassion. I’m convinced that the only absolute the Bible offers us is God, not an institution, not an intellectual or moral belief system (which I believe we often try to substitute for authentic God experience). We need to fall into the hands of the living God. We need the kind of certitude that comes from giving ourselves to the mystery, to the Compassionate Abyss, which then itself becomes the new foundation. It’s a trusting in One who is holding it all together, which we cannot do alone or apart.

ROMANS 8 – The Spirit dwells within us: We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for redemption… The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit…  Notice again that it’s the whole creation that longs for redemption – not just human beings.

(3) Committing ourselves to life in the Spirit

As we finish reading Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of Love, Elizabeth Johnson calls us to both contemplation and action.

We are called to contemplation of  the world:  In contemplation, people look on the natural world with affection rather than with an arrogant, utilitarian stare… They learn to appreciate nature’s astonishments and be alert to its harm. Religious contemplation…. sees the world as God’s handiwork, a place of encounter with the divine. The life-giving, subtly active presence of the Creator flashes out from the simplest natural phenomenon, the smallest seed….

And, remembering Moses and the burning bush:  Seeing that the bush still burns, we take off our shoes….Contemplation deepens human connection with the world, enfolding other species into our love and passionate care…  Ask the Beasts, p. 282 **

New!  Scientific research confirms ancient spiritual wisdom:  Two psychology professors write, *** Why do humans experience awe? Years ago, we argued that awe is the ultimate “collective” emotion, for it motivates people to do things that enhance the greater good. Through many activities that give us goose bumps — collective rituals, celebration, music and dance, religious gatherings and worship — awe might help shift our focus from our narrow self-interest to the interests of the group to which we belong. Recent research (published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology) provides strong empirical support for this claim….

Now before you hear the results of the research: 

It’s true that awe can help us shift our focus from our narrow self-interests (our ‘little egos’, as Richard Rohr would say) to the interests of the group to which we belong.   But if we only shift from our self-interest to the interests of our group even our spiritual community we are only partially transformed.

The human spirit can lead us into awe; the human spirit can lead us into community; the human spirit can even lead us into faith communities.  But the Holy Spirit, working with the human spirit, does not lead us into a community for the sake of community even a church community.  The Holy Spirit leads us in our search for our ultimate home which is the Spirit of God.

Around the world and through the centuries, the human spirit has bound people into religious communities where they stopped searching for their connection to the Spirit, thinking they had already found it.  To put ultimate trust in our faith communities or in the places where we have experienced moments of awe rather than in the Spirit that guides us, is to worship a false God, to put our faith in a broken connection.

Research under the eucalyptus trees: Some of this research was conducted on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, which has a spectacular grove of Tasmanian blue gum eucalyptus trees, some with heights exceeding 200 feet — a potent source of everyday awe for anyone who walks by. So we took participants there and had them either look up into the trees or look at the facade of a nearby science building, for one minute. Then, a minor “accident” occurred (actually a planned part of the experiment): A person stumbled and dropped a handful of pens. Participants who had spent the minute looking up at the tall trees — not long, but long enough, we found, to be filled with awe — picked up more pens to help the other person…. Awe helps bind us to others, motivating us to act in collaborative ways that enable strong groups and cohesive communities.

And we are called to action in the world:

Moved to compassion:  Human beings, inspired by experiences of awe like those felt under the eucalyptus trees, can be moved to compassion to lift up others, aand to help repair the brokenness of the world.

Going beyond the experience of awe:  What if we respond to experiences of awe by looking through them to the Source of awe, of wonder, of life, of compassion?

Then, inspired by the touch, the teaching, the guidance, the reminding, and the peace of the Holy Spirit, what could we do for this hurting world?


(4) An ancient prayer for the Holy Spirit:

Come, Holy Spirit,
fill the hearts of your faithful people,
and kindle in us the fire of your love….

Mockingbird Carol

Preached at St. Benedict’s Episcopal Church – May 24, 2015

Sources

* Paradox: The Stable Witness, by Richard Rohr (2014)

Unless you find and learn to abide in the place of the ‘Stable Witness,’ (which is the Holy Spirit who has been given to each of us – see Romans 8:16), you will remain trapped in the ever-changing ego…

From the place of the Stable Witness, however, you can observe both yourself and the conflicting circumstance with objective, calm, loving eyes. Quite simply, you are not so identified with that small self because you are resting in the Big Self, in the God Self, in the One who knows all, loves all, and holds all things in their seeming imperfection.

Like the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love, holding the opposites is the unique work of the Spirit. It is not something you can merely attain by practice, although that is necessary too. All you can do is abide in God, and then God holds the tensions in you and through you and with you—and largely in spite of you!

Such a way of living is a participation in the very life of God, who holds all things in unity and compassion. I’m convinced that the only absolute the Bible offers us is God, not an institution, not an intellectual or moral belief system (which I believe we often try to substitute for authentic God experience). We need to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31).

We need the kind of certitude that comes from giving ourselves to the mystery, to the Compassionate Abyss, which then itself becomes the new foundation. It’s a trusting in One who is holding it all together, which we cannot do alone or apart.

** Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of Love, by Elizabeth Johnson (2014), p. 282

In contemplation, people look on the natural world with affection rather than with an arrogant, utilitarian stare… They learn to appreciate nature’s astonishments and be alert to its harm. Religious contemplation…sees the world as God’s handiwork, a place of encounter with the divine. The vivifying, subtly active presence of the Creator flashes out from the simplest natural phenomenon, the smallest seed…. [and, remembering Moses and the burning bush]. Seeing that the bush still burns, we take off our shoes.. Akin to prayer, contemplation deepens human connection with the world, enfolding other species into our love and passionate care.

** * Why Do We Experience Awe? by Paul Piff and Dacher Keltner, The New York Times, May 24, 2015

Why do humans experience awe? Years ago we argued that awe is the ultimate “collective” emotion, for it motivates people to do things that enhance the greater good. Through many activities that give us goose bumps — collective rituals, celebration, music and dance, religious gatherings and worship — awe might help shift our focus from our narrow self-interest to the interests of the group to which we belong. Now, recent research (published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology) provides strong empirical support for this claim. We found that awe helps bind us to others, motivating us to act in collaborative ways that enable strong groups and cohesive communities. Under the eucalyptus trees: Some of this research was conducted on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, which has a spectacular grove of Tasmanian blue gum eucalyptus trees, some with heights exceeding 200 feet — a potent source of everyday awe for anyone who walks by. So we took participants there and had them either look up into the trees or look at the facade of a nearby science building, for one minute. Then, a minor “accident” occurred (actually a planned part of the experiment): A person stumbled and dropped a handful of pens. Participants who had spent the minute looking up at the tall trees — not long, but long enough, we found, to be filled with awe — picked up more pens to help the other person.

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